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San Francisco jazz legend Vernon Alley to receive SFSU Presidential Medal



Matt Itelson
SFSU Office of Public Affairs

(415) 338-1665


NOTE TO EDITORS: For a photo of Alley, contact Itelson at the phone numbers and e-mail address above.

Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs

Alley will receive medal
at special ceremony May 24

SAN FRANCISCO, May 6, 2002 -- Vernon Alley, the legendary jazz bassist who has played a major role in San Francisco's jazz scene since the 1940s, will receive the San Francisco State University Presidential Medal this year.

Alley, an undergraduate music studies student in 1940, will accept the medal at a special ceremony for SFSU alumni on Friday, May 24 - the evening before the University's 101st Commencement exercises.

"Vernon Alley is a living legend whose great musical gifts have not only delighted jazz lovers for decades but also have been a vehicle for positive social change," SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan said. "In helping to bring down the color barrier in San Francisco, he changed the face - and heart - of this community in ways that will always be celebrated. Mr. Alley's positive influence has also extended to his civic duties on San Francisco's Human Rights and Arts commissions and, in general, his warm, friendly ambassadorship to the citizens and visitors of this wonderful city."

Alley, an 86-year-old resident of San Francisco's Marina District, is known as the "dean of San Francisco jazz" and has been a major fixture on San Francisco's jazz scene since its post-World War II heyday in the North Beach and Fillmore districts. He still performs several times a month.

Alley was inducted into the SFSU Alumni Hall of Fame in 1997.

Born in Winnemucca, Nev., in May 1915, he came to San Francisco as a child and was a star athlete for Commerce High School's football and track teams. After attending SFSU in 1940, Alley moved to New York to join the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and later joined the Count Basie Orchestra, regarded as the top swing jazz ensemble of its era.

In 1942 Alley left Count Basie to return to San Francisco and went on to be recognized as one of the top bassists in jazz, performing with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington and Erroll Garner. He played at the storied jazz clubs in North Beach and the Fillmore regularly throughout the 1940s and 1950s and has continued to perform in the city ever since.

Alley also was host of several jazz programs on San Francisco television and radio stations from the 1940s to the 1960s. He served on the city's Human Rights Commission from 1980 to 1985 and its Arts Commission from 1985 to 1990.

In recent years, Alley has also actively supported SFSU, performing at alumni functions and special events such as "Veterans of Comedy Wars: A North Beach Reunion."

The SFSU Presidential Medal is the most recent of several honors for Alley. He received the 2001 Beacon Award from the San Francisco Jazz Festival and was treated to an all-star tribute concert at the festival last fall.

The medal honors those who have made long-lasting, widespread contributions to SFSU and the city of San Francisco. Past medal winners include: service learning scholar Thomas Ehrlich, arts patron Jane Hohfeld Galante, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, philanthropist Richard Goldman and August Coppola, dean emeritus of the SFSU College of Creative Arts. Recipients are chosen by President Corrigan.

One of the largest campuses in the CSU system, SFSU was founded in 1899 and today is a highly diverse, comprehensive, public and urban university.

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Last modified April 24, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs